WASHINGTON — For an idea on just how dangerous Alex Ovechkin can be, consider the job the Calgary Flames did against the Washington Capitals star.
Ovechkin finished Sunday afternoon’s 5-3 Flames win with a goal and an assist to reach the 100-point mark for the fourth time in his five NHL seasons.
But the Flames worked hard enough not only to beat the Capitals but also keep the Gr8 One from being the difference-maker.
They played with the desperation and determination needed for the past month.
“We had to put it on the line. I don’t think guys have been doing that the last few games. Brent (Sutter) said before the game we had to put it on the line and guys responded,” Flames blueliner Robyn Regehr said. “We had a great first period, winning battles, physical, being good in our zone. That’s more the things we need to do all the time.”
It’s how a team keeps (relatively in check) the player who is arguably the most dangerous in the NHL. It’s how a team wins games. A price must be paid in crunch time.
It means all those ‘little things’ players talk about ad nauseam. It’s about things such as blocking shots, closing ground quickly to prevent those golden scoring chances and being aggressive — both with the puck and physically.
The Flames did a good job in all those areas against Ovechkin. (Sure shows how great a player he is when Ovechkin still nets a goal and an assist.)
“He had a decent chance early — I think the first shift,” Regehr said. “He doesn’t need very much time or space to get the shot off, and the guys tried to find him as soon as possible. We really tried to tighten up on him. Unfortunately, he did get the goal on the powerplay, but I think the guys did a good job.”
The stats line for Ovechkin was seven shots on goal, four hits, one takeaway and three shot blocks.
However, the Flames also blocked six of his efforts and forced him into four give-aways. Ovechkin fired four shots which missed the net, but that can be a case of either misfiring or players being in the shooting lane.
“Our defencemen were able to do a lot against him, but to do it, you need forwards to backcheck, so he doesn’t have time,” goalie Miikka Kiprusoff said. “He likes to come across the middle with that show, and every time, it’s a scoring chance. We were able to keep him to the outside most of the time.”
And they laid the body on Ovechkin and the rest of the Washington stars.
Defenceman Mike Green dished out some great hits but also took a few. Nicklas Backstrom was bounced around, too. The Capitals can say they didn’t play well, but they didn’t leave the Verizon Center without bruises.
“It’s that time of year, and it’s kind of what we’re about as a team,” Sutter said of his team’s physical play. “We need that. As a group, it’s part of our game and gets guys involved. They’re engaged, and when we play that way, more often than not, we have success.”